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U. S. Farmers To Cut Wheat, Boost Cotton, Corn Acres

American farmers, taking advantage of rising cotton prices, will sharply increase their plantings of that crop this year, and also look to reap better returns from corn and soybeans, growers said in a poll released Jan. 13.

A random survey of 980 farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting found they will increase their cotton plant ings by 15 per cent to 31,627 acres and corn plantings by six per cent to 192,073 acres.

Soybean sowings were forecast to rise five per cent to 188,604 acres, with wheat plantings down two per cent at 81,254 acres.

“It’s all economics,” said Don Villwock, an Indiana farmer who is increasing corn plantings by 500 acres, while reducing soybeans and wheat by 100 and 400 acres, respectively.

“The best market opportunity, at least in this point in time, appears to be corn, rather than soybeans. And wheat is depressed, with a world glut of wheat,” he said.

The increase in corn comes after many farmers battled harsh weather conditions last year that forced them to switch some corn acres to soybeans, which can be planted later in the season. Some growers may be rotating back into corn.

Cotton, which ended 2009 at 75.60 cents per pound, up 54 per cent from a year earlier, has provided an enticing entry point for farmers, compared with other crops like wheat.

The wheat projections from farmers polled mirrored a U. S. Agriculture Department report issued Jan. 12 that said winter wheat seedings were expected to fall 14 per cent to 37.097 million acres, the smal lest in 97 years, from 2009 because of harvest delays for corn and soybeans combined with low prices.

“The price of wheat was really down,” said Ricky Cornutt, an Alabama farmer who reduced his wheat plantings to 100 acres from 300 acres when he planted in October. “It’s going up a little bit right now, but when we decided to plant wheat we just decided the price wasn’t worth it.”

U. S agricultural commodity prices have plunged after setting record highs just two years ago, led by financial turmoil around the world that has weakened demand for U. S. crops domestically while sharply cutting U. S. grain exports.

Corn and soybean prices have dropped more than 40 per cent from their record highs. Wheat also has declined nearly 60 per cent, while cotton has fallen 30 per cent.

Informa Economics forecast in December that farmers would plant 89.504 million acres of corn in 2010, up three million acres from USDA’s 2009-10 estimate, and 76.993 million acres of soybeans, a drop of about 500,000 acres.

Separately, the Farm Bureau said growers will increase U. S. corn plantings to 90 million acres this year, enough to harvest a record 13.5 billion bushels. Cotton plantings would rise from 2009 levels, wheat would fall and soybeans would decline marginally.

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